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Micro-tensile testing machine

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Micro-tensile testing machine

by D. M. MARSH, M.A., Tube Investments Research Laboratories, Hinxton Hall, Cambridge

MS. received 6th January 1961, in revised form 2nd March 1961


This paper describes a tensile testing machine for balance 1, 2, 3. The torsion head arm 1 transmits torque to
micro scopic specimens. It can apply loads in the the torsion wire 2, thus applying a tensile load to the
range from 1mgf to 400 gf to specimens having cross- specimen. The extension of the specimen upsets the nul
sectional areas down to 10-1 mm2• Specimen
extensions from a few angstrom units to 15 mm can be
measured and, at constant temperature, random errors
in the extension measurement system are less than 5 A
(5 X 10-7 mm). The machine employs a torsion balance
to apply the loads and a mirror autocollimating telescope
system to detect the extensions. Since it depends wholly
on mechanical and optical principles it is practically TORSION
drift-free at constant tempera ture. It is adaptable for BALANCE MICROSCOPE
tests in special atmospheres, for autographic recording
and for tensile testing of thinfilms.

1. Introduction
tensile testing machine described in this paper was EXTENSION
developed to investigate the mechanical is properties of
suitable for
'whiskers' and other small crystals, but
any similar specimens.* In its present form it can test
specimens having cross sections from 10-1mm2 to 10-2 mm2
and having lengths from 0·5 mm to 15 mm. It can apply
loads from 1 mgf to 400 gf and can measure extensions up
to 15 mm, the lower limit being set by random errors of * An agreement has been made with Techne Ltd. of Duxford,
about 5 A. These quantities were chosen for the author's Cbs., whereby they have sole manufacturing and sales rights on
purposes, and in no way represent absolute limits of this instrument.
In designing micro-tensile testing machines the loads
involved present little problem, as they are well within the
range of normal balance practice. However, the necessary
extension sensitivity is considerably more difficult ta
achieve. A number of such machines using electrical or
electronic extension detectors have already been described,
but their sensitivities have not been greater than about 1000
A.. When considering measurements of the order of a few
angstroms, the problem of sensitivity is overshadowed by
stability requirements, and in the present instance it was
considered that the normal electronic systems are
insufficiently drift-free. Thus the machine is wholly
mechanical and optical in con struction, with special
provisions to ensure stability.
The present design replaces a previous machine which was
described in an earlier paper (Marsh 1959, to be referred to
as n. The new machine is much more accurate, is self
contained and less susceptible to draughts and is simpler to

2. Design principles
Figure I is a diagram illustrating the basic principles of
the machine. A load is applied to a specimen by a
Thus the method is essentially a null method, which
allows a very sensitive extension detector to be used
while still permitting very large extensions to be
measured. It also ensures that the load is strictly
proportional to the torsion head rotation, since the beam
position 3 is the same at each reading. Further, the small
loads imposed by the optical system are constant at the
_-Uiol!.-... ..::::::====: :
reading position and no linearity demands are placed on
the motion of the optical system. Another advantage of the
null method is the ease with which specimens might be
, ,6% enclosed for tests in special gases at atmospheric pressure.
7 The torsion balance. was chosen for the load application
Fig. 1. Basic principles of the micro-tensile testing machine. because of its simplicity, stability and large range coverage
with a.series of interchangeable torsion wires. Other reasons
condition of the optical extension detector. This null con
for choosing a null method and a torsion balance have been
dition is restored after each load increment by
withdrawing the specimen, using the lever and a discussed more fully in I, together with a review of other
micrometer at 4. possible measuring techniques.

VoL. 38, JUNE 1961


The main advantages of an optical extension detector

lie in its relative simplicity and inherent freedom from drift, Fig. 1, are fitted separately. Great care was taken in placing
which limits the sensitivity of machines of this kind. Inter the components to ensure operating convenience and this
ferometric systems are insufficiently sensitive in thei r simple has been amply repaid in increased ease of operation and
forms, since to attain sensitivity of 2 ·5 A. would require t accuracy, with less strain on the operator.
he detection of 0 ·001 fringe shift. Attention was therefore The accuracy of the machine depends at least as much on
concentrated on various mirror systems. the detailed design of components as on the general principles
The basis of the mirror system used is shown in the inset discussed above. In particular it depends on being able to
to Fig. I . Two mirrors 5 and 6 receive light from an auto construct a variety of simple flexure pivots. These are
collimating telescope. When the mirrors are at 45° to one described in another paper (Marsh, to be published, to be
another, they reflect the light as shown by the full lines and referred to as III), and only the briefest description will be
return it to the telescope to form an image of the graticule given here. The rotating element is always secured to the
7 at 8. However, if the angle departs from 45° then the standing component by one or more strips or wires which
light paths are as shown by the dotted lines and two images provide a pivoting action by bending. There is no backlash
9 and 10 are formed . Thus the 45° condition is indicated or friction (other than internal friction) in such pivots but
by the merging of the two images 9 and I 0 to form one proper design is essential.
central image 8, and this gives an excellent null condition The stress scale for each specimen is obtained from the
with the following advantages: measured elastic strains and the known value of Young's
modulus, as it was in the previous machine. The usual
(i) the sensitivity is much higher than that of a simple method involving measurement of the cross-sectional areas
optical system because of the multiple reflections involved. is very inaccurate with microscopic specimens. Another
This reduces the need for mechanical amplification and hence difference from microscopic testing is that the whole distance
reduces the forces which the system imposes on the specimen; between the grips is the gauge length. The accuracy of this
(ii) the null condition is only upset by two of the eighteen assumed gauge length has been verified by mounting different
degrees of freedom of the system considered (Twyman 1952). lengths of the same whisker, when the measured strains for
One is the rotation of 5 as a result of the specimen extension a given stress were found to be independent of the mounted
and the second is a similar rotation of 6, which is therefore length and thus were not subject to end effects.
used as a zeroing device. Since the other degrees of freedom
of the mirrors and telescope do not matter, no care is needed 3. The torsion balance
to prevent these movements.
In addition to the main components described above there An isometric view of the torsion balance is shown in
are the following extra items. To enable specimens to be Fig. 3. The main framework consists of a flat base 15
aligned and to allow of various lengths of specimen, the
plate 11 carrying the lever system is mounted on a two
dimensional carriage mechanism . To check this alignment
and to measure the specimen length a travelling microscope
12 is installed over the specimen centre line. There are also
heating arrangements for melting the glue on the grips and
a lamphouse to illuminate the specimen during mounting.
A general view of the machine appears in Fig. 2 and a
plan view of the mechanism with the lids and travelling micro
scope removed is shown in Fig. 4. The basic structure is a
heavy box into whic:h the various sub-assemblies, labelled in

Fig. 3. Isometric view of the torsion balance.


Fig. 2. General view of the micro-tensile testing

and top plate 16 attached by a semi-tubular a torsion wire 2. The freely swinging beam 3 is hinged by a
column 17. A micrometer 18, acting through the cross-spring pivot 22, 23, and the torsion wire is attached to
push rod 19 and arm 1, rotates a tube 20, pivoted this beam at the boss 24. Thus rotation
in vee blocks 21; and hence rotates the top end of
230 VoL. 38, JUNE 1961

of the head mechanism by the micrometer 18 applies a The other end of the beam carries a peg 27 and a collet
tensile load to a specimen attached at 13. A ball-ended chuck 28 which in turn holds the specimen grip 13. The
screw in the arm 1 allows coarse force zeroing to be free motion of the peg is limited by a slot, adjustable by
carried out-the fine zeroing being provided in the extension screw 29. This arrangement protects the mirror system
detector system. The torsion head must be accurately against violent movements and can be adjusted to make the
reproducible in its action and this is ensured by the machine 'hard'. The lower end of the peg dips into a dash
kinematic tangent screw mechanism. Now a simple pot which, together with a similar dash pot in the mirror
tangent screw suffers from a substantial sine error (see system, provides critical damping for the torsion balance
I). However, the push rod 19 perturbs this error because extension detector system.
of its varying obliquity during the rotation, and by The preferred specimen grips for fibres, 13 and 14 in the
suitable choice of dimensions this obliquity can inset to Fig. 4, consist of fused silica rods ground to give
compensate largely for the sine error. In fiat spades. Specimens can be glud to these grips using
this way the 0 ·7 % error of the simple system over 25° molten sym-diphenyl carbazide heated by a type of small
is soldering iron. The contraction of the grips and consequent
reduced by a factor of ten. loading of the specimen is minimized by the use of fused
The five interchangeable torsion wires are made of beryl silica. Provision is also made for integrally heated grips,
lium copper in the worked and hardened state and are hard the arrangement being similar to that described in I. The
soldered into end rods. Since the end rods have a larger grips for film testing consist of inverted spades 30, 31, shown
diameter than the wires, the errors introduced by removing in the inset to Fig. 4. Films can be conveniently presented
and replacing the wires are negligible. The torsion wires by :floating them on a meniscus contained by a square
are secured to the tube 20 at its top end by a set screw so aperture 32. They are centred in the hole by the repulsion
that much of the length of the tube 20 is available as free due to surface tension acting between the unwetted film and
torsion wire length thus reducing the height of the whole the wetted sides of the hole. They are also held taut by the
balance for a given torsion wire length. Torsion wires can surface tension and are automatically oriented by using a
be dropped in at the top of tube 20 thus facilitating wire square piece of film in the square aperture. They are raised
changing. slowly by ejecting the meniscus upwards with a plunger.
The two groups of hinges at 22, 23 are widely separated This gives a curved surface which touches the front edge of
vertically to give stability and are equally spaced above and the grips first and then is wrapped smoothly over the glued
below the specimen level, so that movement due to yielding surface. The positioning is thus wholly automatic but
of the pivot about a horizontal axis tends to cancel out at precludes the use of diphenyl carbazide glue. At the present
the specimen. The rotating half of the hinge 22 is placed there is a lack of alternative glues, although Araldite (by
behind the axis of rotation to help counterbalance the beam, CIBA (A.R.L.) Ltd.) might be suitable.
and the stiffness of the pivot is chosen to be comparable with
the stiffness of the mirror system with which it is in parallel.

Fig. 4. Plan view of the machine with

lids and travelling microscope removed.
Inset left. Arrangement for gripping 'whiskers'.
VOL. 38, JUNE 1961 231

4. The extension detector (i) the telescope axis no longer has to be in the
plane normal to mirrors S and 6. Thus the telescope can be
The mirror system placed at an angle convenient to the user and the mirrors
In § 2 the basic principle of the extension detector can be placed where convenient for their suspension and
was established. In designing the mirror system it was linkage;
considered essential that the rotating mirror be mounted on (ii) the sensitivity is doubled.
a flexure pivot to eliminate friction and backlash. This This system readily gives an absolute sensitivity of IA..
flexure pivot is in parallel with the specimen stiffness and so The main mirror block is shown in Fig. 3 and some further
must be very compliant if the sensitivity is not to be reduced. details are shown in Fig. 5. .Two mirrors flat to 0 ·1 fringe
Inpractice, the system of two mirrors at 45° with an auto are mounted on triangular mounts 34 and 3S. Mount 34
collimating telescope is slightly modified, as shown in Fig. 5. is pivoted on wire pivots and can be rotated by the screw 36.
This adjustment is used to zero the images before a test and
in normal use is the fine force zeroing control (see Fig. 4).
The other mount is hinged by two short lengths (of the order
Fig. 5. Sectional view of autocollimating telescope and of O·OOS in.) of 0·001 in. strip, which are held by simple
mirrors. clamps at 37 in the mount and main mirror block. A fibre
38 attaches the torsion balance to the mirror. This is
Light from the telescope is reflected at the two mirrors 5 deliberately arranged to have an appreciable length to isolate
and 6 as described, but instead of returning to the telescope the mirror from side movements of the torsion beam, as the
after the fourth reflection it is reflected by the mirror 33 so cross-spring pivot may deflect under load by distances large
that it retraces its previous path back into the telescope along compared with the extension sensitivity and would other
its incident route. This arrangement results in a system of wise produce serious second-order errors at the mirror S.
two images which coincide at the 4S0 position as before but The thin fibre is stiffened by hypodermic tubing as shown to
has the following two advantages: give the system a higher buckling strength for a given
flexural rigidity, and is contained in the end tube (Fig. 3)
of the torsion balance to protect it from temperature
fluctuations and damage.
Mirror 33 (Fig. 3), which causes duplication of the 45°
system, is mounted on top of the block on a single wire pivot
39 and is adjustable in two directions by two screws, one of
which is located in a groove to prevent rotation about the
axis of the wire 39.

The telescope
The telescope (Fig. S) carries a lamphouse 40 which
illuminates the graticule 7 at the focus of the lens 41. This
lamphouse is outside the main box to eliminate temperature
fluctuations. Light from the graticule is reflected down the
telescope tube by the half-silvered mirror 42 and on returning
to the telescope forms an image at 8 which is viewed by the
x SO eyepiece 43.
The small 2 w bulb 44 is centred by a movable bracket
to throw light through a double condenser to the graticule 7
by the mirror 4S. The graticule holder 7 slides in its
mounting tube, and tube 46 carrying the half-silvered mirror
42 is able to rotate and slide up and down the main telescope
tube 47. Inthis way the three perpendicular centring and
focusing motions required by the graticule are provided
very simply. The objective 41 is a simple achromatic
doublet with its curved face downwards. This eliminates an
awkward reflection from one of the lens faces.
A bright line graticule is used at 7 so that the two images
9 and 10 (Fig. 1) may be regarded as Young's double slits
which can produce mutual interference. Inparticular at the
coincidence position they have a characteristic 'focused'
appearance which gives a positive indication of coincidence,
thusincreasing accuracy and reducing eye-strain. To see these
diffraction effects clearly, a x SO eyepiece is used and the
resulting setting accuracy is about four times that expected
from the normal Rayleigh criterion.

5. The lever mechanism

The reduction ratio of 100 : 1 between the drum micro
meter 4 and the specimen grip 14 (Fig. 4) is achieved in two
stages. Withdrawal of the micrometer 4 rotates the lever 48
about its single strip flexure pivot 49 and provides a twenty-
38, JUNE
five-fold reduction of motion at the connecting strap SO. micrometer by the 'pot' magnet 64, which also provides the
This is further reduced by the lever Sl pivoted at S2 to give hard surface for the micrometer ball end. Beside providing
a hundred-fold reduction at the grip 14. Despite the risk of a constant load, the magnet has the advantage that it only
additional errors it was considered essential to divide this operates when in contact with the micrometer. Thus for
reduction into two stages for the following reasons: mounting specimens, the microscope is pushed away by
(i) the lever arm between 14 and S2 could then be hand from the vicinity of the grips and remains out of the
kept way until pushed back, when it automatically rejoins the
long compared with the possible error in the position of the micrometer.
whisker on grip 14, thus reducing the changes of ratio which The transverse and focusing motions are provided very
such mounting could give; simply by the extra arm 65 and two screws 66 and 67.
(ii) the instantaneous centres of the flexure pivots move a Rotation of screw 66 rotates the microscope about the
known amount for a given rotation and the shortest lever simple flexure pivot 68 and moves the image point 69 in a
arm between 49 and SO must be long enough for this. shift horizontal
to be unimportant. This necessitated a double reduction arc through the small distance required without loss of focus.
motion ifreasonable overall dimensions were to be Similarly, rotation of screw 67 gives a vertical motion to the
maintained. The smooth action of the levers is provided by image point 69. Although this motion is also an arc it is
steel balls pressed into the underside of the levers and instantaneously vertical at 69 if the vertical through 66, tl.Je
sliding over the ground, chromium-plated surface of plate horizontal through 69 and the line through 68 and 61 meet
11. The pivoting strips at 49 and S2 have a free length of at a single point 70. Under these conditions there is no
about 0 ·001 in. and a thickness of about 0 ·003 in. so that apparent transverse motion of the image through the whole
they provide rotation without assuming an S-shape. focusing range. Finally, shutters 71 close the slots in the
However, care was taken to place these grips such that lid to minimize draughts in the machine.
any residual motion was in an unimportant direction.
Further, the grip 14, pivots S2 and 49, connecting strap SO 7. Calibration and errors
and micrometer axis 4 are arranged to be co-planar to reduce The torsion balance was calibrated by mounting it on its
second-order errors due to random side and using a scale pan and weights. The lever system
vertical movements of any of these components.
was calibrated by two methods. In the first the lever arms
The drum micrometer 4 is mounted on the free arm of a were accurately measured on a universal measuring machine
horseshoe S4 of high-tensile steel, which can be sprung open reading to 10-sin. For the second method the overall lever
by a cone SS on a screw. This adjustment screw is the fine ratio was determined by joining the grips and balancing large
strain zeroing screw. To facilitate the finest measurements drum micrometer movements with the coarse strain micro
an additional 10 : 1 lever may be fitted between the push meter, using the extension detector as a null indicator.
rod S3 and drum micrometer 4 to give a 1000 : 1 reduction Careful measurements of the non-linearity of the load scale
ratio. A vernier of the micrometer then reads to 10-4 mm:, showed that it agreed closely with the calculated errors of
which represents a specimen extension of 1..\. O ·07 % full scale. Any random or other systematic
The whole of the lever mechanism is carried on the two errors
dimensional ball carriage mechanism 11, 58, driven by screw were certainly no larger than this figure. An upper limit to
S6 and the coarse strain micrometer against springs S7, S9, the random errors of the lever and mirror systems combined
while vertical motion of grip 14is provided by knob 60. is provided by some measurements of the repeatability of
These motions provide for specimen alignment and for exten5ion scale readings. With the grips joined together to
coarse strain measurement when the drum micrometer eliminate specimen effects, and taking certain precautions to
motion is exhausted. minimize temperature fluctuations, the repeatability was
6. The travelling microscope found to be 4·3 A (standard deviation of 40 readings).
The travelling microscope (Fig. 6) moves on the balls 61 Systematic errors of the lever system are harder to find as
rolling on a vee-bar 62 and a rod 63. Itis held to the no test equipment available has a sensitivity approaching
operating the necessary value. However, this type of drum micro
meter has proved linear to 0·001 % full scale over the
limited distance for which highly sensitive measurements are
required, and should be accurate to 0·01 % over its whole
range. The only potential source of trouble in the levers
themselves is their frictional contact with the carriage, but
any resulting stick/slip or hysteresis has proved too small to
detect. One error due to the mirror system arises if the
null position is not found exactly before each successive
reading. The stiffness of the mirror then exerts a small load
on the specimen. This 'force interference' is only about
O ·1S mgf for a SO A setting error and so is not serious.
68 ;:;==:64====6:
,,,,._-61 8. Mode of use
62: 1 63 The machine is easier to use than the earlier model. With
the load and strain micrometers at zero, the torsion wire is
changed if necessary and the extension detector images are
.""'.""' 1 zeroed by the coarse and fine force zeroing controls. The
specimen is then glued in position and is aligned to the
·""'· I travelling microscope axis by the specimen alignment knobs.
Care is taken to melt the glue to eliminate any specimen
·-·-·-·- o bends caused by the alignment procedure, lamp 71 is
Fig. 6. Elevation of the travelling microscope.
V L. 38, JUNE 1961
off and the system is allowed to come to thermal equilibrium. 10. Summary
The extension detector images are then re-zeroed by the
coarse and fine strain zeroing controls to remove any loads A tensile testing machine capable of testing a wide range
imposed during the mounting. Testing is carried '?ut by of small specimens has been described, together with per
alternately loading by the load micrometer and zeromg. by formance :figures which themselves can be varied over wide
the fine strain micrometer, and a complete set of ten pomts limits. It is capable of modification to include automatic
can be read and recorded in 90 seconds. In some tests the recording of extensions and the testing of specimens in
extension may exceed the O ·25 mm range of the fine special atmospheres. Its chief characteristic is a very high
strain micrometer and further extensions are followed on the extension sensitivity, together with an ability to test very
coarse strain micrometer. small crystals (.-10-7 mm2 cross section). It was developed
mainly for tensile testing of single crystal 'whiskers', but may
well have more general applications in testing fibres and thin
9. Possible developments films.
The present machine is manually operted but mit. be Acknowledgments
extended to give automatic strain recording over a limited The author wishes to thank Mr. J. E. Gordon, Dr. J. W.
range, at the expense of some complica?n. would Menter and other colleagues for their encouragement and
involve an adaption of an extremely sensitive device due to helpful criticism of the manuscript. He also wishes to thank
Jones and Richards (1959). A photogrid of a suitable design Mr. H. A. Nightingale and Mr. F. Buckingham who con
would replace the graticule 7 and a similar photogrid and structed the machine, and Mr. A. E. Long of the Cavendish
double photocell would replace the yepiece. The. effect Laboratory who spent a considerable time setting up and
would be as described by Jones and Richards, but with the testing the various components of the machine. He is
addition of the valuable independency properties discussed grateful to Mr. M. D. W. Paddison for his care in preparation
above. of the diagrams.
Another possible development is an adaption to permit
This paper is published by permission of the Chairman of
testing in controlled atmospheres. A cylindrical container
Tube Investments Ltd.
could be clamped to the base plate such that the specimen
grips lie along its axis. The ends of th conter wod References
consist of flexible bellows sealed to the gnps to give an
air tight system. The constraint imposed upon the JONES, R. V., and RICHARDS, J. C. S., 1959, J. Sci.
torsion balance by the bellows would be immaterial lnstrum.,
since a null method is used but it would be desirable for 36, 90.
the bellows to be less stiff th the specimen if the full MARSH, D. M., 1959, J. Sci. lnstrum., 36, 165.
extension sensitivity is required. TWYMAN, F., 1952, Prism and Lens Making, 2nd edn.
(London: Hilger and Watts Ltd.) p. 409.



VOL. 38, JUNE 1961